Story #49: Paul Krekorian
You may know Paul Krekorian as the 26th president of the Los Angeles City Council. But long before that, he was one of the first-ever JEP participants.
Joining the program in the late 70s, just a few short years after its founding, Krekorian taught an environmental course at a local elementary school. One of his fondest memories was walking with his students through the neighborhood and identifying things in their environment that they learned about in his class.
He said this experience was one of many that opened his eyes to the surrounding neighborhood. As much as his students gained from his lessons, Krekorian says that he gained even more from teaching them.
“I hope that we provided some benefit to those students, but I know how much benefit they provided to me. And to all of the other students who got this experience of being able to see life in a different way that they have experienced in their own lives.” said Krekorian. “[JEP helps students] realize the value of lifting others up and giving a hand to other people and applying what we learned at this university in a very pragmatic way to the benefit of the surrounding neighborhood and families.”
Krekorian adds that during his time at JEP, USC had a very abrasive relationship with the surrounding community. The university was known for its privilege and the wealth of many of the students who attended. For many local residents at the time, USC was inaccessible and out-of-touch with the needs of South Central Los Angeles.
When Barbara Seaver Gardner founded JEP, she looked to change that. Krekorian says that her mission was successful.
“Some of that criticism was deserved at the time, but in the 50 years that JEP has been here, and I think in large measure to the work JEP has done, all of that has been broken down.” said Krekorian. “We are now at a point, thanks to the commitment to service-learning and the commitment to building that relationship between the university and the surrounding community, that all of those old criticisms seem woefully obsolete now.”
Krekorian adds that the work at JEP directly correlates with his work at the Los Angeles City Council. He’s grateful to JEP for educating students and giving them first-hand knowledge on some of the issues facing our city.
“I’m so grateful to JEP, to think of the tens of thousands of people who have attended this university and have developed a greater commitment to their community because of their participation in JEP.” said Krekorian.
Additionally, Krekorian thanks JEP for inspiring local elementary school students to become the next generation of community leaders. To say thank you to JEP, Krekorian passed a resolution with the Los Angeles City Council thanking them for the contributions made to this city for the past 50 years. The resolution was signed by all city council members.
Krekorian was also a speaker at our 50th anniversary gala, and continues to work with JEP students and staff.